Tactics and Strategy When Law Has No Meaning

Community Organizations International Ideas and Issues International Uncategorized

P1010062Tegucigalpa Dilcia Zavala, ACORN Honduras director in Tegucigalpa, led us across town until to Colonia Ramon Amaya Amador near the international airport where we parked on a rough, unpaved road and walked into a garage where more 60 people, virtually all women, were already seated waiting for us.  For the next several hours we were in an amazing meeting, but also in an Alice-and-Wonderland for organizers, where nothing seemed to work the way it would seem that it should.

The officers were introduced and one of them, Maria Amalia Reyes Cartagena, an imposing, live wire was the elected Organizador.  To begin the meeting she asked each and everyone of the women to introduce themselves.  One after another, each stood, including the 5 or 6 men in the group, and introduced themselves by name and the name of the family they represented.  It was short, sweet, and powerful.  The group even had a rule that anyone could represent a family, including a child, as long as the family was represented.  This was an area where 15 years ago the families had squatted and by hard work and constant struggle had gained title to 90% of the families after the land they squatted had been flipped to a political favorite.  Now they wanted running water, access to education for their kids, a way to deal with the 10% who were delinquent, and accessing resources to improve their houses.

I might have thought this was the typical urban slum of 2000 families where ACORN International routinely worked, except that almost every question I asked about “rules and rights” met a locked door, because it came right up to the problem of the total polarization and dysfunction of Honduran government since the golpe de statio (hit against the state or coupe d’etat). One of the reasons the meeting organizer was so respected it turned out was that she had been kidnapped by the police and not released for a week!  They kept proposing that the only way they would be able to solve the issues in this small slum would be to go directly to seek a special law in the National Congress.  Huh?  What about the city?  Well, yes, they were part of the city, but.  What do you get for your taxes?  Nothing?  But if they don’t pay, interest is added.  Laws were on the books from what they were saying in order to be ignored. Over and over it went like this.  An action was in motion for July 13th.  The numbers took work.  It turned out that the meeting we were having was itself illegal, because no more than 20 people are allowed to assemble since the golpe, so we were now breaking the law.

My head was spinning.  Tactically should they continue to press for legal enforcement, or were we now in a situation where only resistance was appropriate.

20 or more people joined us to walk up the rutted road paths of the colonias and jump over the running raw sewage.  At one end of the barrio we looked over the runway of the Swiss run airport now.  In the middle of the colonias we could see towers everywhere owed by Tigo, the telecom conglomerate.  Maybe we would have to push in a direction where laws still had some impact?